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What You Hadn’t


ISSUE:  Spring 1991
One pain forgives another;
mashed thumb obliterates headache.
Malaria returned, dragged your liver
with all your other failures
        from that ugly flat
where you burned so many pots of stew
and chased your daughter’s beaus away.
“If we hadn’t lost the house,” I might say now,
or “If you hadn’t driven the car
onto the basketball court.”
        But there you sat,
dozed, watched the televised war,
the burn scar from the barrel of the B.A.R.
warning me not to be a softy.
Then you wept to the skinny boy
you pressed against it into your vast belly,
against your sweat and breath,
saying, “Never touch a gun.”
         So desperate,
cursed to drink by birth and war,
beaten, slicing ham and cutting steaks
in the disappointing sixties,
you’d nothing left to give a boy
but a clip with the shells dumped out.

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